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Rosburg makes debut, looking to end 14-game losing streak vs. Chiefs

Change brings challenges for Broncos
Jerry Rosburg.jpg
Posted at 7:01 PM, Dec 30, 2022
and last updated 2023-01-01 13:03:27-05

ENGLEWOOD — Change brings challenges. And the one staring down the Broncos is the equivalent of climbing Long's Peak in Crocs.

The Broncos boast an interim coach in Jerry Rosburg, a roster ravaged by injuries, a season long ago irrelevant and an opponent in the Kansas City Chiefs, who have treated them like a chew toy for nearly a decade.

Kansas owns a 14-game winning streak against the Broncos, Denver's last victory coming on Sept. 15, 2015, as Hall of Famer Peyton Manning refused to go gently into that good night in Arrowhead Stadium.

Manning gave the Broncos belief every time he stepped into the huddle. That was supposed to be the feeling with Russell Wilson this season. Instead, the nine-time Pro Bowler cratered, unable to find a fit in fired coach Nathaniel Hackett's offense, while making bewildering decisions and suffering three injuries to his shoulder, hamstring and head.

The result has been a 4-11 record, and 3-10 in Wilson's starts. The offseason requires honest reflection by Wilson. No one questions his work ethic, but his relentless positivity can be toxic to improvement without sobering self-awareness.

Nationally, Wilson has found himself the target of endless social media venom. He has handled the barbs professionally, but Thursday teammates reached their flashpoint with Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler — who was named the team's Ed Block Courage Award winner for his return from knee and hip surgeries — Kendall Hinton and Garett Bolles coming to his defense.

"There's a lot of media giving false narratives about my boy. Every time I am around Russ, I feel motivated. I feel like I have to step my game up because of the way he carries himself," Jeudy told Denver7. "He's a guy you want in the locker room."

Friday, Rosburg praised players for defending Wilson, calling the criticism of the quarterback, "crap!" multiple times.

Lost in all the dizzying change is the game remaining on Sunday in Kansas City. Here are my Denver7 things to watch:

Will Russ Trust Game Plan?
From the first play vs. the Rams, the Broncos went off the rails, trying a deep pass to Courtland Sutton against Jalen Ramsey. It was symbolic of Wilson swinging for home runs, instead of taking bunt singles. The only chance the Broncos are competitive vs. Kansas City is by trusting the run to set up play-action. Playing keep away is the key. Wilson has 27 touchdowns with 14 interceptions over his last 22 games, dating to his return from finger surgery in 2021. It is why talk of his decline lingers.

Getting the Run Around
The easy strategy is to run the ball, holding the Chiefs at arm's length. That's hard to do if you fall behind by 27 points as the Broncos did three weeks ago. Latavius Murray has proven reliable. But, I'd like to see more of Chase Edmonds on third downs and screens to see where he fits moving forward.

Target Jerry Jeudy
Jerry Jeudy is maturing right before our eyes. He's showing toughness as he battles an ankle injury, while finding his voice in the locker room and his place on the field. In his last six games played — I am removing Titans game because it consisted of one snap — Jeudy has 38 catches on 49 targets for 490 yards and four touchdowns. He has an outside shot at 1,000 yards — he needs 220 over the final two games — which would continue to show he has WR1 potential next season.

Well, Isn't That Special?
Talking to players, Rosburg is indeed "hip deep" in special teams. By his metrics, the Broncos were the worst through 15 games, which is why he fired Dwayne Stukes. Rosburg has introduced new blocking schemes, but can it translate in two weeks? Well, the Broncos can't be worse.

Nik of Time
Second-round pick Nik Bonitto has had an underwhelming season — 1.5 sacks in 13 games — while struggling to earn playing time. With Randy Gregory (knee) out, it opens the door for the rookie outside linebacker to log more snaps. Bonitto has first-step burst, but needs to continue to work on the nuances of the game in run defense and setting up offensive linemen.

Free Agent Frenzy
Left guard Dalton Risner and inside linebacker Alex Singleton are among the pending free agents who have an opportunity to keep putting on good tape. Risner would like to return to the Broncos, but with no talks on a contract during the season, it makes a hometown discount less likely. Singleton would love to stay in this defense. He leads the Broncos in tackles, and regardless of the new coach, it's easy to see how Singleton could fit with his tenacity and sound fundamentals.

Coach Bump
It's not uncommon for teams to receive a bump from an interim coach. The Broncos' situation is a bit complicated, though, because the players liked Hackett. Rosburg is no-nonsense, a juxtaposition to the hugger in Hackett. Perhaps, it will lead to better fundamentals and more discipline. I predict we have seen the last dust-up between Broncos' players on the sideline and more offensive linemen will help Wilson up after sacks.

RENCK'S PREDICTION: Chiefs 30, Broncos 17